Diversity and Inclusion in Planning

APA's LGBTQ and Planning Division is a forum for the exchange of ideas and information of interest to people in the planning profession who identify as part of the LGBTQ community and anyone who is interested in LGBTQ community issues. Members work throughout the country (and world): from small towns to large cities; public sector, private practice, and education; from students to seasoned planners.

The LGBTQ and Planning Division evolved in 2016 from the Gays and Lesbians in Planning (GALIP) Division, which was created as a formal APA division in 1998 at the APA National Planning Conference in Boston. The group met as an informal network for the first time in 1992 at the national conference in Washington, D.C.

Learn more about the careers of these LGBTQ and Planning Division members:

Petra Doan, Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at Florida State University

John Parsons Douglas, Senior Project Manager at New York City Council

Doug McDonald, AICP, Planning Projects Manager, City of Richardson, Texas

Marj Press, Founding Member, Terra Plata LLC

Marcia Tobin, AICP, Principal/Vice President, AECOM

Michael DiPasquale, AICP, AIA, Sustainable Community Development

James Rojas, Community Engagement

Perris Straughter, AICP, Housing Preservation & Development

Interviews


Petra Doan Headshot

Petra Doan

Professor of Urban and Regional Planning

Florida State University

 

Read the Interview With Petra Doan

Where are you currently living?

I live in Tallahassee, Florida

Describe your current and past planning work.

I am a Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at Florida State University

What are your primary planning interests? What types of projects really captivate you personally?

My primary area of research is planning with LGBTQ populations.

When did you decide on a career in planning?

I spent two years in the Peace Corps in West Africa and that inspired me to want to go to graduate school and see if there were better ways to plan for developing the cities and rural areas in the Global South. Planning seemed a very promising avenue for doing this.

What drew you into the planning field?

The opportunity to work with often marginalized local groups to improve their lives and make their cities and towns more liveable and efficient.

When and why did you join the LGBTQ & Planning Division?

In Fall 1998 I transitioned and began living as the woman I have always known myself to be. At that point I shifted my research area from Planning with marginalized populations in the Global South to planning with LGBTQ populations. Most of my work on this latter area has been in the Global North, but I remain interested and open to expanding my work back to the Global South. I joined the division in the early 2000s when it was called GALIP.

As a member of the LGBTQ community, how do you handle this aspect of your identity in the workplace? With clients? Beyond? Does your identity influence your approach to planning?

My identity as an openly trans woman shapes every aspect of my teaching and research.

In your opinion, what are the most pressing issues of the LGBTQ community that we as planners can address?

I think that a critical issue for the LGBTQ community is how do we plan for evolving gayborhoods. Not all and certainly not even close to a majority of queer folk live in dense concentrations. For some living in a queer area is a reality, for others it is perhaps aspirational space, and for many others it is just not on the radar due to the cost of housing, a feeling of not being welcome, or simply preference for a different residential area. But such visibly queer spaces continue to have an iconic element in urban space as a focal point for the LGBTQ community. When the community needs to gather to celebrate, mourn, or protest these activities happen in queer spaces. So how do we plan for them?

What accomplishments have given you the most satisfaction in your life?

Working with students and providing a role model for how to be out and proud as a planner.

Where do you want to be 10 years from now?

Retired and living in Maine.

If an LGBTQ & Planning Division member was to visit [your town/city], where is the one place they must go?

Umm … can we meet in Atlanta or Tampa instead? Tallahassee is a lovely place to live, but has little that I would like to show off to LGBTQ planners.

If you had the chance to do your whole career over, would you do anything different or are you happy with it just the way it is?

I am pretty happy with the way things are.


John Parsons Douglas Headshot

John Parsons Douglas

Senior Project Manager

New York City Council

 

Read the Interview With John Parsons Douglas

Where are you currently living?

I live in Brooklyn, New York. I was born and raised in Durham, North Carolina. I spent four years in Greensboro, North Carolina where I attended Guilford College.

Describe your planning work (current and past).

My first planning work was through the Community Planning Fellowship Program, sponsored by the Fund for the City of New York. I was assigned to a yearlong fellowship program with a local community board in Brooklyn, New York. During my fellowship, I assisted the community board’s efforts to conduct a feasibility study of establishing an Industrial Business Improvement District (IBID) in the Industrial Business Zone (IBZ) located in the Gowanus area of Brooklyn. I conducted a survey of businesses in the IBZ to determine what kinds of services would attract existing businesses and property owners to support the establishment of an IBID in the Gowanus Area.

My first planning job after graduate school was working as an intern, and then hired as a Planner at BFJ Planning. At BFJ Planning I worked on the New Rochelle Local Waterfront Revitalization Program, the New Rochelle’s Comprehensive Plan, the Melville Employment Center Plan, the Village of Pleasantville Master Plan, the City of Beacon Comprehensive Plan Update, and several other planning efforts around the New York metropolitan region.

Currently, I am working as a Project Manager at the New York City Council in the Land Use Division. I provide technical assistance to Council Members for discretionary land use applications that are subject to City Council review. I also work on periodic reports released by the City Council related to land use policy in New York City.

What are your primary planning interests? What types of projects really captivate you personally?

I am very interested in the environmental consequences of planning decisions. As planners, we are able to have some of the most direct influence on sustainability efforts in this country. I am interested in hazard mitigation planning efforts, developing more resilient infrastructure systems, and integrating sustainability into every step of the planning process.

After studying for the AICP exam, I have also developed a new interest in community facility planning—particularly airport planning and military base planning.

When did you decide on a career in planning?

I think I have always been interested in planning issues, before I knew planning was a realistic career path. I have always been interested in how to foster a more equitable and sustainable future that integrates economic development opportunities.

What drew you into the planning field?

My first taste of planning efforts in New York City began while working for the New York Restoration Project (NYRP), a local non-profit that conducts environmental improvement projects across NYC. While working at NYRP, I was able to work in many different communities in New York City, and learn about the links between our built environment and its effects on the environment. I was able to work on the MillionTreesNYC effort, where I planted many trees in all five boroughs. Planting and caring for new trees was likely my first experience in long-term planning project.

When and why did you join the LGBTQ & Planning Division?

I joined the LGBTQ & Planning Division in 2014. This is my first professional association, and I thought it would be important to meet other professionals that share a similar background with me. I think there are issues that affect the LGBTQ community in planning efforts, and I want to support more LGBTQ voices to be at the decision-making table when critical decisions that affect LGBT community.

As a member of the LGBTQ community, how do you handle this aspect of your identity in the workplace? With clients? Beyond? Does your identity influence your approach to planning?

I am thankful to work in New York State where discrimination based on sexual orientation is illegal. I also have many LGBTQ co-workers and friends with whom I am able to discuss issues that face our community. I think being gay does affect my approach to planning. I like to think that it makes me more considerate of different voices in the workplace, and when I discuss planning issues with the public. I know I often do not perceive the world the same way as other people, and I think that makes me more sensitive to consider alternative approaches to problem-solving than my own.

In your opinion, what are the most pressing issues of the LGBTQ community that we as planners can address?

I think the most pressing issue for the LGBTQ community is addressing the significantly disproportionate number LGBTQ youth that are homeless. Recent studies show of the 1.6 million of the young people who are homeless, 40 percent of them are LGBT. While it is estimated that LGBT are less than 10 percent of the U.S. population. Those are staggering numbers, and it shines a light on a national disgrace. We have to do more for these vulnerable populations who are often escaping difficult domestic situations with little to no support. Homeless shelters are often unable to provide adequate safe spaces for LGBT youth, and that only compounds the problem. We need to find housing solutions for this particularly vulnerable population, and establish better social networks to provide economic opportunities for them as well. I know that without the significant support from friends and family, I could have been in a similar situation that these young people are living through. We have to do more.

What accomplishments have given you the most satisfaction in your life?

One of my more recent career accomplishments was writing the proposal to help the Village of Pleasantville secure a $1.5 million New York State DOT Transportation Alternatives Program grant for pedestrian safety improvements along Manville Road.

Where do you want to be 10 years from now?

I am very happy with my work now, and I could see myself working in NYC for 10 more years. I also have an interest in working at the federal level working on geospatial planning efforts domestically and abroad.

If an LGBTQ & Planning Division member was to visit [your town/city], where is the one place they must go?

Prospect Park. I think public parks are the great equalizer in society, and Prospect Park does it the Brooklyn way. You can see all walks of life enjoying nature here, and if you play your cards right, you can experience silence in the most populous borough of NYC.

If you had the chance to do your whole career over, would you do anything different or are you happy with it just the way it is?

Ask me in 30 years.


Doug McDonald Headshot

Doug McDonald, AICP

Planning Projects Manager

City of Richardson, Texas

 

Read the Interview With Doug McDonald, AICP

Where are you currently living?

Dallas, Texas

Describe your planning work (current and past).

I’ve worked in the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) metroplex my entire planning career, which began in 2007. My first job was in a Fort Worth outer-ring suburb (Keller, pop. 44,000) doing development review planning and some economic development work. During this time, I was also working on a joint Masters in City and Regional Planning and Public Administration from the University of Texas at Arlington.

After 3 years, I transitioned into strategic/comprehensive planning, working for the DFW inner-ring cities of Arlington (pop. 392,000) and Plano (pop. 286,000). While working in Plano, I was promoted to Comprehensive Planning Manager and spent nearly 3 years overseeing the city’s long-range planning, demographics and research, and historic preservation programs. Our Comp Plan team developed a new web-based comprehensive plan in-house, and we were honored when the plan received the 2017 APA Daniel Burnham Award. I have had the opportunity to speak about this plan at the past two National Planning Conferences.

In 2018, I started my current role as the Planning Projects Manager for the City of Richardson (pop. 106,000). In this role, I am managing redevelopment, reinvestment, and transit-oriented development-related projects for the city. Richardson, a first-ring suburb, has many characteristics stimulating redevelopment including a large employment base known as the Telecom Corridor®, four light rail stations (with additional rail stations set to be constructed by 2023 for a new commuter rail line from DFW Airport), and the University of Texas at Dallas (a major research institution with over 27,000 students).

I have also been in leadership roles with APA since 2009, previously serving as the Midwest Texas (Fort Worth-region) Section Director, Section Representative on the Texas State Board of Directors, and the APA-Texas Chapter President-Elect. During this time, I had the privilege of leading the creation of Emerging Planning Leaders of Texas, a succession leadership initiative, and Great Places in Texas, a statewide recognition program modeled after APA’s Great Places in America.

Today, I currently serve as the APA-Texas Chapter President with my term ending next year. One of the initiatives of APA-Texas I am proud of is the recent creation of the Texas Chapter’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

What are your primary planning interests? What types of projects really captivate you personally?

I am interested in projects that make a strong effort to solicit input from those who historically have been left out of the planning process. I enjoy doing “out of the box” engagement activities and finding new ways to bring stakeholders to the table. Social media has made it easy for people to be completely surrounded by those of their same views and beliefs, which can be damaging for our profession. Getting residents out of their virtual silos and into a room where civil dialogue can occur, and common ground can be identified, is one of the best things we can do to build community pride and establish unified visions and goals.

When did you decide on a career in planning?

Playing Sim City as a kid? Just kidding! Well, maybe.

Similar to many city planners, I started out in architecture school and completed two years before I decided to make a change. By taking a site analysis course, I was exposed to the planning profession and knew this is what I wanted to do. So, I finished up with a degree in political science and minors in architecture and community and urban studies from Texas Tech University. Two days after graduating with my undergraduate degree, I started graduate school to study city and regional planning.

What drew you into the planning field?

Knowing the positive impact the planning profession can have on our society.

When and why did you join the LGBTQ & Planning Division?

I believe I originally joined back in 2009, though it hasn’t been continuous. I wanted to get involved with APA and thought this would be a good way to network in a smaller setting. I will be completely honest and tell you that I have questioned if APA’s race/gender/minority divisions create further segregation in the organization. I think it is a concern to be mindful of. But given the current political climate, and my current role with APA-Texas, I felt it was important for me to reengage.

As a member of the LGBTQ community, how do you handle this aspect of your identity in the workplace? With clients? Beyond? Does your identity influence your approach to planning?

I didn’t talk much about my personal life at work prior to 2013. In 2013, I traveled to New York, which was one of the few places non-residents could get married, and married my husband. The legitimacy of our legal marriage helped me become comfortable talking more about my personal life at work. Today, I don’t feel I handle it any different than if I were to be heterosexual in the workplace. I do think my life experiences have helped me have a greater understanding, awareness, and sensitivity towards other minority groups that may have experienced harassment or discrimination in their community. Having that awareness can impact how you communicate with citizens, prepare for public meetings, and engage the community.

In your opinion, what are the most pressing issues of the LGBTQ community that we as planners can address?

Similar to other minority groups, I think getting members of the LGBTQ community involved in city-wide planning matters is one of the most pressing issues because it can have the biggest impact. The more educated and involved LGBTQ community members are, the more likely they will participate in boards and commissions, or even run for City Councils. The other issue I think planners can address is encouraging crime prevention through environmental design in LGBTQ neighborhoods (and other minority neighborhoods). Everyone should feel safe in the community they live in, regardless of which neighborhood they live in.

What accomplishments have given you the most satisfaction in your life?

While my career has been rewarding and I enjoy being able to do something that leaves a lasting impact on the community, I have had the most satisfaction from my volunteer work. For the past five years, I have volunteered with the national Future Cities Competition, which is a project-based learning program where students in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades research, design, and build model cities of the future. I assist by being a student mentor, and I find it fulfilling to be educating the youth about the planning profession. The work that the students do is creative, fun, and inspiring. I am also satisfied with the volunteer work I’ve been fortunate to do with APA and the Texas Chapter.

Where do you want to be ten years from now?

2029 ... well, I’d be eligible for retirement but retiring at age 43 doesn’t seem likely. Whatever I am doing, I hope it is making a positive impact.

If an LGBTQ & Planning Division member was to visit your Dallas / Fort Worth, where is the one place they must go?

Dallas and Fort Worth are very competitive, so I’ll have to give you one in each city to be fair.

Dallas • Deep Ellum, which you can visit by light rail. Deep Ellum was established in 1873 as one of Dallas’s first commercial districts for African-Americans and European immigrants and is one of the most historically significant neighborhoods in the city. The neighborhood is known for its music, but most recently visual artists have made a name for themselves through galleries, street murals, public art, or simply public displays of creativity. The neighborhood was divided from Downtown Dallas by an elevated highway in 1964, which is now a topic of discussion for a potential highway teardown (that’s right, here in Texas we are talking about highway teardowns too). It is also home to Deep Ellum Brewing Company, which is showing up in bars all across the nation.

Fort Worth • Sundance Square, which you can visit by rail. Fort Worth remains one of the fastest growing cities above 500,000 population and is now the 15th largest city in America — adding 18,664 people last year. It is where the West begins, which is fitting since Sundance Square was named after the Sundance Kid. The area includes hotels, restaurants, condos, night clubs, museums, and concerts throughout the year. In 2012, Fort Worth removed a parking lot with 180 spaces in the center of the square to build a public plaza with a permanent stage, a jetted fountain, and huge umbrellas (32’ tall), which are the focal point of the plaza. It was a $110 million private/public development and significantly enhanced the most successful urban center in DFW (and that is saying a lot for a guy from Dallas).

If you had the chance to do your whole career over, would you do anything different or are you happy with it just the way it is?

I’m happy the way it is. The recession hitting at the same time I was job hunting for my first job wasn’t much fun, but it did make me have a greater appreciation once I got my foot in the door.


Headshot of Marjorie Press.

Marj Press

Founding Member

Terra Plata LLC

 

Read the Interview With Marj Press

Where are you currently living?

Seattle

Describe your current and past planning work.

Twenty-five years as a transportation planner analyzing the feasibility and environmental effects of transportation projects, including light rail transit, heavy rail, tunnels, bridges, ferry systems, and highways, in the Seattle area and across the U.S. Currently, I am “retired” from planning (I no longer receive a paycheck!) yet still devote my time to planning through volunteer activities. I served six years on the Seattle Planning Commission and currently serving on the APA board.

What are your primary planning interests? What types of projects really captivate you personally?

As a practicing planner, I was always fascinated with, and drawn to, transportation projects. I spent my career working with engineers helping to ensure the best possible solutions. As a planning commissioner, I had the opportunity to work on equity, social justice, housing affordability, and homelessness challenges as well as contribute to the major comprehensive plan update, Seattle 2035. I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to apply my experiences and skills across a broad spectrum of urban and regional planning.

As a consultant, the projects that captivated me most were the ones that were built. Early in my career, I learned that funding, politics, or other issues, postpone or “shelve” projects. As a young planner, I recall the sheer joy of experiencing the completion of the second span of the First Avenue South Bridge in Seattle. It was built! My work included feasibility and environmental analyses and continued through final design as varying interests required negotiated compromises and design refinements to ensure all social, economic, and environmental goals of the city, state, and tribes were met. I still smile whenever I travel across that bridge. Other projects for which I am proud to include the Westside Corridor Light Rail Project (extension of MAX) in Portland, OR; LINK light rail Beacon Hill tunnel station in Seattle; SR 520 Bridge Replacement and HOV Project in Seattle; and my contributions as a Seattle planning commissioner.

When did you decide on a career in planning?

As a carefree 20-something not really using my undergraduate degree to establish a career, I knew I needed to find something that I loved and forge a career. I was always fascinated by cities and their form and loved to explore what cities offered. In a “what do we want to do when we grow up” conversation with a dear friend, I had my “aha” moment and knew that planning was my calling. I decided to take a class at The George Washington University (GWU) and never looked back.

What drew you into the planning field?

The class at GWU was fascinating and I was fortunate enough to study with Sherwin Greene; he was so passionate and excited about planning. He was pragmatic yet charming and he made everything seem possible. He exposed me to new ideas and provoked his students to consider all options when approaching a planning concept or developing a plan. Skills I still call on today!

When and why did you join the LGBTQ & Planning Division?

I am a founding member of LGBTQ and Planning. I was one of the original 17 planners (and one or two spouses) that went to dinner at the Straits of Malaysia on 18th Street NW in WDC during NPC in 1991. It was that night that LGBTQ and Planning (formerly GALIP) got started. We formed local networking groups (DC, Seattle, Toronto, Chicago, Boston, etc.) and over the next seven to eight years, several of us worked to foster a national network of LGBTQ planners; form a steering committee charged with working towards becoming an APA division; and as a network we hosted a conference session, a reception, an infamous “night out,” and a business meeting for network members at every NPC thereafter. In 1998, at NPC Boston, APA leadership approved our application for division status. I served as the division’s first vice chair (1998-2003) alongside Randy Gross, our first division chair whose efforts were instrumental in obtaining division status. From 2003 to 2007, I served as division chair and immediate past chair 2007–2009. For many years, and thru NPC Seattle in 2015, I put together the division’s annual mobile workshops. It was an incredible experience to participate in, and help nurture, the development sustainability of the division.

As a member of the LGBTQ community, how do you handle this aspect of your identity in the workplace? With clients? Beyond? Does your identity influence your approach to planning?

For the most part, as a practicing planner, I didn’t. It helped that in Seattle most everyone strives to be socially and culturally aware. As a very private person, my approach was — if you don’t ask, I don’t tell. While I didn’t deny my identity, I never volunteered the information much in the same way I didn’t talk about my ethnicity or religion. At work, and for my clients, I was most focused on developing the best possible solutions and meeting schedule and budget which seemed to work just fine. That said, my volunteer activities were, and remain, quite the opposite — I’m front-and-center and “out.” I think my leadership role in the division, my work with the Pride Foundation (Seattle), and my involvement with the National LGBTQ Task Force have helped me to achieve some balance and comfort between my private self and my work/volunteer self.

In your opinion, what are the most pressing issues of the LGBTQ community that we as planners can address?

Equity and inclusion remain challenges. As a current APA board member, I’m proud that APA has fostered and made progress with equity and inclusion goals in planning practice and in our organizational work. The LGBTQ community, like all historically underserved communities, faces lack of choices and access to opportunities in housing, employment, the essential components of livability, and safety and security.

What accomplishments have given you the most satisfaction in your life?

My appointment to the Seattle Planning Commission, receiving the Divisions Council leadership award, my adult Bat Mitzvah, giving a home to two rescue dogs and cat, and my community involvement.

Where do you want to be 10 years from now?

Perhaps living la vita bella in Italy!

If an LGBTQ & Planning Division member was to visit [your town/city], where is the one place they must go?

Just one place? That’s tough. I’d recommend the troll under the Aurora Bridge; Gas Works Park (beautiful view of downtown and float planes taking off and landing); the new waterfront promenade (and seawall!); and the view from the top of the water tower in Volunteer Park. And of course, visit the restaurant I co-own, Terra Plata, on Capitol Hill.

If you had the chance to do your whole career over, would you do anything different or are you happy with it just the way it is?

What could have been is always there to ponder. Not sure I’d want a whole career do-over! Basically, happy with where I’ve been and where I’m going.


Marcia Tobin Headshot

Marcia Tobin, AICP

Principal/Vice President

AECOM

 

Read the Interview With Marcia Tobin, AICP

Where are you currently living?

I live in Knoxville, Tennessee. My family and I moved here several years ago, after living in San Francisco for 13 years. We are enjoying life in a small city, the chance for our children and their grandparents to have a close relationship, and the natural beauty that is all around us.

Describe the previous experience and planning work you've done.

I work for AECOM, in the design, planning and economics practice. As the company has grown (from EDAW to AECOM), I have had many opportunities for professional growth and development, including running our environmental planning studio, running our San Francisco office, and developing a planning practice centered on multi-disciplinary integration.

My work has included developing a Water Supply Management Program for the water district serving over 1.2 million in San Francisco’s East Bay; assessing the green infrastructure opportunities for stormwater management as part of San Francisco’s Sewer System Improvement Program; developing a rehabilitation plan for Monterrey, Mexico, to create a vibrant, urban, and sustainable multi-modal corridor along the Santa Catarina River; and working with Miami Beach, Florida, to develop a climate resilience program.

What are your primary planning interests? What types of projects really captivate you personally?

Integration and connection — I’m interested in how a place’s parts fit together—the water, topography, climate, changing climate, users, history. How does a place express these factors? How can we create, enhance, and sustain places that are moving, beautiful, impactful? How can we improve or fix a place? The projects that captivate me are the ones that achieve these goals with seemingly simple solutions. The path and process to solution is likely complex, circuitous, ever-changing, highly challenging.

Two projects I love are in New York — the High Line, for its ongoing transformation and transformative power. The second is Governor’s Island — a quick ferry ride from the Financial District, and you are in an enormous open space with amazing views of New York harbor.

What drew you into the planning field?

I started as a landscape architect. As a college freshman, I walked into the Landscape Architecture building at the State University of New York Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF) in Syracuse. I discovered walls covered with plans, drawings, and photos of projects, places and spaces. It all made perfect sense to me, and I stayed. Over the years, my practice has evolved from very site-specific landscape design to planning at city and regional scales.

When and why did you join LGBTQ and Planning?

I joined the division in 2013, encouraged by Tracey Corbitt, who was the division’s Secretary/Treasurer. I am very happy there is formal recognition of the diversity of our professional colleagues, a venue for discussion of issues that are LGBTQ-specific, and our Division’s long history within APA.

As a member of the LGBTQ community, how do you handle this aspect of your identity in the workplace? With clients? Beyond? Does your identity influence your approach to planning?

For the most part, my orientation has not been a factor ... perhaps because I have enjoyed the wonderful queer bubble that is San Francisco. I focus first on developing mutually-respectful relationships with colleagues and clients. We eventually get to sharing personal information, the degree to which we do is about comfort on both sides. My gay identity has influenced my work by keeping me open-minded, forcing me to act as I think, to be accepting as I expect acceptance.

How has living and working in San Francisco and Knoxville shaped who you are as an individual? As a planning practitioner?

Living and working in San Francisco, in California, in the West, greatly shaped my professional trajectory. Our SF office is a diverse and exciting practice in a city that is full of talented designers and planners. I was exposed to all facets of the design and planning profession, worked with engaged and energetic clients, and learned how our business is run.

In Knoxville, Tennessee, I have been able to gain more experience over a larger geography. My work has also shifted to focus on climate adaptation and resilience, working with cities on how to enhance and sustain their communities in a time of changing climate conditions.

Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

In 10 years, I hope to have worked on and influenced some, many, transformed and transformative public spaces. Spaces and places that people are drawn to, find inspiring, and energize their connection to others, to history, to nature.